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racketboy
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Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by racketboy Sun Oct 25, 2020 2:19 pm

Does anybody have a USB Floppy drive that they like or something that makes it “easy” to bring files from your vintage PC to a modern machine (maybe even with MacOS support...)?

I have a 286 running DOS/GeoWorks (highly underrated UI/Shell) that I used a lot between 1990 and 1996(?). No networking. I do run DOSBox on my Mac, but I might consider turning old Windows desktop into an intermediary of getting files transferred.

I figure a USB Floppy drive would be the best best, but if somebody has specific recommendations for hardware, I'd appreciate it.

Also, I’m guessing that for 5.25 floppies, I should just transfer files to 3.5 disk?
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by Ziggy587 Sun Oct 25, 2020 3:16 pm

The USB floppy drive could work fine. I've never used one so I can't recommend any. I've never seen one made by a trusted brand name, they seem to all be generic or cheap/unkown brands.

Here's some other options...

Get a CF card to PATA/IDE adapter. Your DOS PC will see the CF card as a HDD, then just use the CF card on your modern computer as you normally would.

You could also do the same as above but with SD instead of CF. From what I understand, CF uses the same PATA interface that HDDs do, so the adapters are less involved and therefore be less prone to issues and probably cost less too. SD to PATA adapters exist, but require serial to parallel circuitry to work. Not that there's anything wrong with that. SD cards are easier to use than CF cards.

If your DOS PC has a spare 5.25" bay, you could get one of those swappable HDD caddy things. You could just pop out the DOS HDD and hook it up to a modern PC in a number of ways. Obviously a matching swap caddy on your modern PC would be ideal, but if you have an all in one Mac or Mac book then that won't work. You can get USB adapters tho, or an external HDD enclosure.

Like you said, if you have another PC to act as a bridge of sorts that'll work fine. I use to do that on my old Windows 98 PC that didn't like USB sticks. I would put the files on a floppy, then use another PC to copy the files from the floppy to a USB stick. If it's just one-offs then this works fine, but is obviously less convenient if you have to do it often. The reverse is easier tho, if you want to go from the modern PC to DOS. If your modern PC has a burner and you DOS PC has a CD drive, just burn the files to a CD (use an RW if you'd like).

All of these are perfectly fine options, you just have to balance cost and convenience for yourself.
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by racketboy Sun Oct 25, 2020 4:05 pm

Ooh good ideas — thanks!
Do you know if DOS has support for more than just one HDD?
I do remember having the ability to have the different letter drives, but I honestly can’t remember how to go about mounting/setting up a new drive.
It would be really cool if I could keep the original drive and back up the whole thing to a SD...
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by Anapan Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:48 pm

I've been using Total Commander as my main file manager since the 9x days - I use it on nearly every system I run (old PCs down to windows 3.1, Android, Pocket PC, etc). It has a function for connecting two computers through a parallel port using a direct wired dual-male parallel cable. On the DOS computer, you can run a file server to let a newer computer interact with files on the server side using a program called LPTDOS which is small enough to be included on a DOS boot disk. This is how I used to do most file transfers to and from older systems - even ancient computers with only floppy. I assume it still works on all Windows environments.
I've never had a problem with any USB floppy drives - most were brand names I didn't recognize. They were all new hardware or barely used old hardware. I also have a floppy drive that runs through PCMCIA, and I hear that you can get a device called backpack that lets you connect a floppy drive through a parallel port.
DOS can handle multiple hard drives, but they need to be partitioned properly for it to work with them - it has a maximum partition size it can work with (Can't remember which size). It deals with larger hard drive sizes by using multiple partitions on the same drive. It can make the partitions itself on a large drive so it can write to it.
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by racketboy Mon Oct 26, 2020 7:28 am

All, excellent notes -- thanks SO much!
I've heard of Total Commander before, but never used it :)
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by Ziggy587 Mon Oct 26, 2020 8:42 am

Yep, DOS supports multiple drives. The more important question is if your IDE controller card does. It probably does, but if it doesn't you can just swap it out for another one that does.
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by isiolia Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:26 am

I'd say it'd depend on what your end goal is.

If you're just going for a one-time data transfer/backup, then getting an IDE to USB adapter is probably the way to go. You could get one that does SATA as well, making it simple to hook up other drives in the future. It's a useful sort of thing to have in your toolbox.

On the other hand, it's quite common for folks setting up vintage computers these days to use a Compact Flash to IDE setup as the main hard drive. It'd probably be the better route if you're intending to revive the old machine. Keeping in mind that you're probably just working with FAT16 there, which has a max partition size of 2GB, and earlier BIOSes may not even see things past like 8GB or so. Basically, you'd probably just want to stick to smaller CF cards, which probably dwarf the original drive anyway.
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by Ziggy587 Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:37 am

isiolia wrote:If you're just going for a one-time data transfer/backup, then getting an IDE to USB adapter is probably the way to go. You could get one that does SATA as well, making it simple to hook up other drives in the future. It's a useful sort of thing to have in your toolbox.


Ah, good point. I have an external enclosure for PATA HDDs, and I have a SATA to USB dongle for SATA HDDs, and having both has come in handle multiple times over the years. Definitely a good thing to have lying around, whether or not you end up using it for this purpose or not. They're inexpensive too, especially the USB dongles.

isiolia wrote:On the other hand, it's quite common for folks setting up vintage computers these days to use a Compact Flash to IDE setup as the main hard drive. It'd probably be the better route if you're intending to revive the old machine.


I get the advantages of using CF instead of a HDD, but then you wont hear those nostalgic HDD noises!
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My Sale Thread - 7% off all marked prices!! SNES and N64 added! I am selling around three quarters of my video game collection as well as some other odds and ends!

I want to buy Universal Game Cases, if you have any spares please PM me! I'm looking to only deal with members that have good BST feedback on this forum.
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by racketboy Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:49 am

isiolia wrote:I'd say it'd depend on what your end goal is.

If you're just going for a one-time data transfer/backup, then getting an IDE to USB adapter is probably the way to go. You could get one that does SATA as well, making it simple to hook up other drives in the future. It's a useful sort of thing to have in your toolbox.

On the other hand, it's quite common for folks setting up vintage computers these days to use a Compact Flash to IDE setup as the main hard drive. It'd probably be the better route if you're intending to revive the old machine. Keeping in mind that you're probably just working with FAT16 there, which has a max partition size of 2GB, and earlier BIOSes may not even see things past like 8GB or so. Basically, you'd probably just want to stick to smaller CF cards, which probably dwarf the original drive anyway.


Personally, my goal is eventually to go the CF for a primary drive route, but I'm in the middle of some big life stuff, so I was kinda looking for a quick-ish short-term solution in the meantime....


Ziggy587 wrote:
I get the advantages of using CF instead of a HDD, but then you wont hear those nostalgic HDD noises!


I would like to go the CF route, but keep my original HDD handy to swap in for old times sake.
It should theoretically be fine to swap them back and forth (powered-off, of course), correct?
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Re: Recommendations for Migrating Vintage PC Files to Modern

by Ziggy587 Mon Oct 26, 2020 12:04 pm

Yeah, you can rotate HDDs in and out. But you'll have two different installations of the OS though. Your IDE controller almost definitely supports a second HDD, and it shouldn't be too hard to set up a second HDD and keep the one you got in there. But if you want to simply rotate a single drive, then one of those hot swap bays would definitely give you a lot of convenience so you don't have to open the PC case every time you want to swap. You just need an empty drive bay.

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Although it might be hard to use a CF card with a hot swap bay, unless you get the kind of hot swap bay that uses a caddie.
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My Sale Thread - 7% off all marked prices!! SNES and N64 added! I am selling around three quarters of my video game collection as well as some other odds and ends!

I want to buy Universal Game Cases, if you have any spares please PM me! I'm looking to only deal with members that have good BST feedback on this forum.
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